Summer's Song

Summer's Song
Lindi Peterson

June 2012 $12.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-137-1

All she has to do is prove that she'd changed...completely.
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt


All she has to do is

prove that she’s changed . . . completely.

Pop-star princessSummer Sinclair doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she’s cleaned-up and sober. She knows God’s been nudging her, but since God is unfamiliar territory, she feels scared and alone. Everything changes when she meets Levi Preston, a Christian musician who’s falling for Summer and wants her to be who God created her to be. But when the reality of her life takes Levi to places he’s vowed to stay clear of, will Summer’s newfound freedom be what breaks her heart as she does what is best for Levi?


Lindi Peterson definitely believes happy endings are just the beginning. She lives out her real life romance with her husband in a small Georgia town. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, bowl and spend time with her family.

Visit her at





"A powerful story of second chances, forgiveness and redemption—one to savor and enjoy!" —Catherine West, award-winning author of Yesterday's Tomorrow

"This book has it all; faith, courage and love. You won't want to put it down.” —Cindy Kirk, author of Love Enough For Two

"This second novel firmly establishes Peterson as a master storyteller and an inspired voice in Southern fiction.” —Debby Giusti, author of The Officer’s Secret, The Captain’s Missionand The Colonel’s Daughter

"Lindi Peterson has done it again with Summer’s Song: A fun voice, characters who make you care and at moments make you laugh out loud, and a touching story that draws you in and holds you spellbound until the sigh-worthy ending.” — Missy Tippens, author of A House Full of Hope from Harlequin Love Inspired

"A lovely read, infused with gentle humor and refreshing honesty.” —Meg Moseley, author of When Sparrows Fall



Chapter One

How can a simple knock at the door undo nine months of therapy? I immediately recognize the annoying tap, pause, tap, tap, tap pattern my manager, Coleman, uses. Of course his knock didn’t become annoying until I became sober. But I guess noticing is part of recovery.

Abandoning my green beans and chicken, I make my way to the door wondering why Coleman is three days early. It’s Friday, he isn’t due to arrive until Monday, and I’m so not mentally prepared for him.

While I, Summer Sinclair, have been in seclusion, as Coleman puts it, we have communicated mostly by phone. I’m not sure for whose benefit. He claims he doesn’t want the media disturbing Lawson’s Ledge, a small Georgia town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but Coleman rarely thinks of anyone but himself, let alone a whole town. I personally think he doesn’t want the media to figure out I’m in therapy.

I open the door, hoping to remember some of what my therapist said about standing on my own two feet. "You’re three days early. What gives?” I attempt to take control of the conversation. After all, this is my life.

"Hello to you, too, Princess,” Coleman says. His nickname for me grates on my nerves as he pushes his way past me.

I stare after him as I shut the door. Still slick, savvy and succinct. He’s been managing my career since day one. Even though I don’t really want him around, I don’t know what I’d do without him.

But I’m learning.

"Would you like some dinner?” I ask as I watch him dig through the refrigerator, jars clanking as he moves the few things that are in there around.

"No, thanks. I grabbed a burger on my extremely long drive from the airport. Being in this remote location isn’t very convenient.”

"Sorry,” I reply.

"Why is your hair brown?” He pulls out a soda before shutting the refrigerator door.

Coleman has always been one to get right to the point. "My hair is its natural color. And it’s a not brown. It’s strawberry blonde.”

I run my hand through my hair, the softness of it a foreign feeling I’m still not used to. But I like it. It reminds me I’m real. That I can feel.

"It’s a turn-off. Your fans like that white-blonde color.”

"My fans also like me stoned. Besides, I like it this way.” I sound more timid than I want to. If you sound like you mean it, people will react like you mean it. My therapist’s words ring in my head seconds too late.

Popping the top on the soda can, Coleman cops this really serious look. "I guess there’s time to fix it when you get back. It’s almost time, you know.”

"Time for what?” A sinking feeling seeps into my stomach. Do my three small words now mean he has control of the conversation? I sit down in front of my plate wishing he would disappear and hoping it doesn’t show.

"Time to get back to it. After the custody hearing next month you’ll be in California, settled down with Sam. Have you written any material like we talked about?”

He talked about it. I didn’t want to even think about it. All I want to think about is my son, Sam. I stab a green bean and shove it in my mouth. Chewing slowly, savoring the delicious seasonings, I deliberately choose my words.

"Coleman. I’ve said this before. When I’m back in California, things aren’t going to be like they used to be. Sam and I are a family. I plan on spending my time with him. He’s starting school in a year. I need to be with him now as much as I can.”

Coleman pulls a chair out and sits across from me. Why is it that his blond hair, tanned skin and expensive suit intimidate me? I probably paid for it all.

"You can be a family with your son and still have a singing career.”

I close my eyes, trying to pull from strength my therapist swears I have. "That’s not the point. I can’t get back into those circles. Those long hours, weeks away from home. It’s not going to happen again.”

I have no plans to return to the crazy business I’d spent the last year recovering from. It has already cost me more than I’ll ever be able to regain. There’s a relationship with my mother I need to repair. Never mind my sister. And the most important one of all. With my four-year-old son.

"Meghan Cascade called. She wants an interview.”

His statement is so matter of fact, I almost miss it.

"Meghan Cascade?”

"Yes. A chance to tell your side of the story. With someone the media respects. Her talk show is number one right now. This would be a great opportunity for you.”

I push my food around on my plate. What he means is it would be a great opportunity for him. "The media has forgotten me. I like it that way.”

I stand, taking my plate with me. I scrape my food into the sink. When Coleman starts to speak, I drown him out by turning the disposal on. Too bad my therapy sessions have ended. Otherwise I would tell my therapist the strength to tune people out can come from a garbage disposal.

When the whirring stops he says, "I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Summer. This is serious business. You can’t walk away.”

"Watch me.” I head out of the kitchen onto the back patio. The early September evening is still warm. The green leaves on the trees hang in the stillness of the air. Tall pines shoot up toward the sky, their skinny trunks, straight as rulers, hiding their strength. I cross my arms, fully aware of the body language I’m exhibiting. My chin points slightly upward.

He comes and stands half-in, half-out of the doorway. "I’m leaving now. I’ll be back tomorrow after you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Take something if you need to. I’ll see you around ten tomorrow morning.”

"Since when did you start working on Saturdays?” I ask, totally ignoring his comment about taking something. That’s what the old Summer would’ve done, not the new Summer, whom Coleman refuses to acknowledge.

"Since you owe Feline Records another CD. They’ve waited patiently while you partied, then had your so-called breakdown. But now they want their album.”

My heart steels. "You said you would get me out of that contract. You promised.”

"I tried. Can’t be done.”

Disbelief threatens to overwhelm me. I’m speechless, but my chin lifts a little higher despite the inward drop of hope.

"See you tomorrow, Princess.”

As soon as Coleman is out of sight I slump into the glider, the colorfully patterned cushions doing nothing to brighten my mood. Only the sound of Coleman’s car barreling down the driveway relieves some of my tension.

I grab my legal pad and pen that I have hidden under the other cushion of the glider. Page after page are flipped up and over the top.


My songs. Plenty of songs for a CD. Not a CD Feline Records would produce, though. Coleman would faint if he saw them. He would wonder what sort of an imposter has taken over my soul.

Truth is, I feel like an imposter. These feelings, these thoughts, these words aren’t mine. They’re from God. I shiver at the thought.

Me and God.

Oil and water.

A guitar with a broken string.

Some combinations just don’t combine.

But there is no other way to explain how I’ve written these songs. They’ve come from a place in my heart I never knew existed. My soul. My inner-most being. Everything about me lies bare and bold in these words. When I reread them, I cry. I’ve cried before, but not like this. This cry comes from an ache I long to fill. A depravity of sorts from years of emptiness.

Like the guitar lessons I’ve been taking, writing songs began as therapy. But now I’ve found I can’t quit.

I clutch the legal pad close to my chest like I’m afraid the pines have eyes. The only person who has even seen this pad is country music legend Skeet Lawson. He’s eighty if he’s a day, and this town is named after his family. He lives across the lake and has been my mentor for the last six months. My therapist recommended that I ask him to give me guitar lessons as additional therapy. She insisted it would help me focus on something I like and learn something new. As much as I have been on stage, I have never played an instrument.

I glance down at the words on the page. Words about love. A different love than I used to sing about. A love I can’t really understand. But a love Skeet says is real.

Skeet has told me it’s also unconditional, which I’m having a really hard time understanding. In my line of work everybody wants something.

Coleman wants his share of my fortune. My fans want the seductive lyrics and sexy beats. My songs blare from all the dance clubs in the world. Girls and guys move in very private ways in very public places to my music. They are not going to accept these new songs.

"Hello, Summer.”

My heart warms at the sound of the voice. Skeet. I turn my body slightly to see him walking onto the patio. There is a path through the woods from this cabin to his house. I’m used to him just showing up. I think I rather like it. I stand to greet my mentor and friend. "Hi there. Needed a walk?”

"Gotta keep this old body mobile.” He eyes me, a serious look crossing his features. "What’s wrong? You’re too pretty to be lookin’ so sad.”

There’s no hiding anything from Skeet. I motion for him to sit down.

He sits in the same chair every time he visits. His attire rarely changes. Jeans and some sort of denim shirt, scuffed boots, all which make me comfortable knowing he hasn’t changed. He also rarely settles in here. Today is no exception. He’s perched on the edge of the chair, just enough to take the load off, yet not enough to think he’s going to stay awhile.

"Coleman showed up early. He left not too long ago. He couldn’t get me out of that contract with Feline. Now I have to make another CD for them.”

He chuckles. "You know how many people would give their left leg to have your problem?”

I smile. "Yes. But it’s different for me. You know that. You know what they expect. And you’ve told me I’m better than those records I’ve been making.”

"So make a better record.”

"I don’t know how. I only know one thing. Sex sells.”

He doesn’t flinch at my honesty. He knows where I’ve been. What I’ve come through.

"You have to leave that way of thinking. I know you’ve written plenty of lyrics. Put them to use.”

"How? With electronic pulses, techno-beats? I can’t just strum a guitar. Feline will fall out.”

"Make an album you want to make.”

"Right. I can’t see the Christian music world being terribly excited at being asked to spin a tune on their airwaves that I’ve written. I do have a reputation, remember?”

"You have any big plans tonight?” he asks, his tone mocking in a friendly way. He knows very well I never have any plans. Not unless Sam is visiting. Then I’m busy being Mom.

Or at least trying.

"Thought I’d hop on my jet plane, scoot over to Paris for the evening, tunnel over to England, visit Big Ben.” We laugh, both of us knowing that scenario is just a phone call away. "Why, can you make me a better offer?”

"Might can. How ’bout a bologna sandwich at my house in about an hour?”

Thoughts of my dinner in the garbage disposal make the bologna sound tempting. Whereas Coleman could ruin any appetite, Skeet makes mud pies sound delicious. "Sounds fabulous.”

"Good. There’s a friend of mine I want you to meet. He should be at my place any time now, so I can’t stay.” He slowly stands, his age doing things to his body that his mind hasn’t succumbed to yet.

I think I’ve come to know Skeet over these last few months, but I still have to be very careful. He’s in the entertainment business where anything can happen. I mean anything. "Okay. But who’s the friend? And why do you want me to meet him?”

"You trustin’ me or not?”

His question burns a hole in me. So straightforward, sincere. The man doesn’t have a deceitful bone in his body. If I can’t trust Skeet Lawson, I might as well curl up in this cabin I’ve been leasing for almost a year and hide for the rest of my life. "Yes, I trust you. I’m just curious.”

"You’ve heard tell of what curiosity did. I’ll see you shortly.”

He squeezes my hand before he starts back through the woods to his house. As much as I trust him, I’m a little on edge about meeting someone new. Everyone knows who I am. They all have one up on me so there’s always the battle with preconceived ideas, which I fueled regularly until I decided to drop out, clean up, and act right.

While the media knows that I’ve dropped out, they don’t know that I’ve cleaned up and am trying to act right. But Skeet knows. He hasn’t judged me. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone before who hasn’t judged me on some level.

And his friend is male. I don’t even know how to act around a guy. I had so many flings, a short marriage, all lived out in that haze that was my life. I wonder what dating is like. Strange question from the mother of a four-year-old. Well, his friend is probably as old as he is, so I’m not going to worry that I’m not wearing make-up, my hair hangs straight, tucked behind my ears, and I’m wearing black capris and a white T-shirt. One thing is certain. I’m not out to impress anyone.

At least thoughts of Skeet and his friend have pulled my mind away from Coleman’s dreadful visit. For the rest of this evening I’m not going to think about those demands. No, I’m going to enjoy a bologna sandwich.

I knock on Skeet’s door, arriving a little later than I had intended. I had momentarily debated whether I would drive or walk. I’d rather walk, but not after dark. So the car won out, this time. I park my leased red Mustang convertible behind an average sedan rental, which tells me Skeet’s friend is here.

After a couple of knocks, Skeet opens the door. "Here you are. Come on in.”

I step in. A safe feeling surrounds me. In this house, with this grandfatherly man, I have known nothing but goodness. No strife, no confrontation, no pitying. Just singing, music, guitars, and God. Like food labels list their ingredients from most to least, I feel I know the most about singing and the least about God. The music and guitars are comfortably settled in the middle, being explored like the modified food starch in a can of cream of mushroom soup.

"Come on back to the studio.”

His home studio is where we hang out the most. It’s down the hall, at the back of the house. I hear guitar music as we get close. When we enter the studio I immediately notice Skeet’s friend. First off, his dark, full head of hair indicates he’s not old. He’s sitting on a stool, his feet propped on the cross-bars, head bent, playing the guitar. He doesn’t look up as we make our way toward him.

The music is good. It has a life about it.

He crescendos his way to an ending. His right foot kicks out somewhat as his right hand goes into the air. Then he looks up. "Hi.”

It’s all he says. Hi. I’m not sure I would have heard anything else had he spoken. Maybe it’s because this is the first attractive man I’ve met since I’ve been recovering. Maybe it’s because he’s wearing a shirt with a guitar drawn on the front, and the logo says Life Is Good. Maybe it’s because his eyes are a deep, dark brown color I don’t remember ever seeing before.

Or maybe it’s because his music tells me more about him than he knows.

"Levi, this is Summer. The girl I’ve been tellin’ you about.” Skeet turns to me. "Summer, this here’s my friend, Levi.”

"Cool name.” Levi sets his guitar in its stand before coming over to shake my hand.

I offer my hand, not sure of how to handle myself. Already the safe, secure feeling of Skeet’s studio is shattered by Levi. His music, his voice.

Skeet’s words ring in my mind. Summer. The girl I’ve been telling you about. No last name, no disclaimer, no she’s rehabbing so don’t break out the beer or offer her a Xanax. But Levi would have to be deaf, blind and dumb not to know who I am. Or am I giving myself too much credit? Are there really people in this world who don’t live by the tabloids? Who don’t go to the grocery store? Who haven’t seen my pictures all over every media venue?

An impossible thought crosses my mind. Could this be my opportunity to actually make a first impression on someone as the new Summer?

"Summer,” Skeet says. "I told Levi about you havin’ to make a record.”

My breath hitches. What does Levi have to do with me making a record?

Skeet glances at Levi. "I think you can help her.”

My body tenses. Who is Levi anyway? Is he a songwriter? A producer? A relative?

"Whoa. Wait a minute,” Levi says. "I’m sympathetic to her dilemma, but I can’t help the Summer Sinclair make a record.”

Once again the old Summer has reared her ugly head. So much for first impressions.

"Can’t or won’t, Son.”

"Skeet, you know what I’ve been through. This is not a good time for something like this.”

Levi’s gaze is darting back and forth between Skeet and me. He’s taken a couple of steps back, and his hands are shoved in his dark denim jeans. I guess I have a way of making people uncomfortable.

Skeet clears his throat. "I may be old, and my body may be slowin’ down on me, but my mind is still sharp as a tack. The way I see it, both of you are runnin’ so hard away from stuff, if you run in the same direction, you might just run into each other and stop.”

I want to bolt out of the room. Skeet is making things worse. Levi obviously has issues. He’s making it very clear he doesn’t want to work with me.

Skeet is a smart man. He has to realize combining two problems doesn’t equal a mutual solution.

It equals disaster.

I stare at Skeet like hello, wake up. The man doesn’t want to be involved.

Who can blame him?

"This is way out there even for you, Dude.” Levi eyes Skeet with a more than skeptical look. Levi’s pursed lips and scowl combination should give him a sour look, but they only accentuate his fine features. I don’t think the man could be ugly if he grew ears out of the top of his head. Which he might actually do if Skeet keeps pursuing this crazy course of action.

I better intervene.

"Your willingness to help anyone and everyone is admirable,” I say to Skeet as I eye the door. "But this is too much. I’ve got to handle my own problems someday, and it looks like today’s the day to start.”

"Sometimes askin’ for help takes more courage than walkin’ alone.”

The way I’m thinking, is if a collaboration is in the making, at least one of the collaborating parties should be willing to collaborate. The only willing party here is Skeet.

"The lady is a phenomenon, Skeet. She doesn’t need my input to make a CD.”

Lady? Phenomenon? Wow! My brain is having a hard time taking hold of these compliments. Lady? I tingle as the word keeps repeating in my head. When was the last time someone called me a lady?

When was the first time?

"What’re you thinkin’, Summer? Do you want his help?”

Tingles still run down my arms as I assess the situation. My feelings have softened some with his compliment. Isn’t that just like a woman? Tell her anything, a lie even, and her emotions run rampant.

But he can throw out a dozen ‘ladys.’ It doesn’t change the facts. He doesn’t want to work with me. What did he say? Something about it not being a good time for him?

When it comes to me, there will probably never be a good time.

"No offense, Levi, Skeet, but I think I’m better off on my own here.”

I can see the relief on Levi’s face.

Skeet’s skeptical look doesn’t escape me, either. Disappointment shows in his warm brown eyes. "I had more faith in you two. More faith that you could see past your own dealin’s and have compassion for another in need. Guess I was wrong in assumin’.”

Levi’s gaze catches mine. A result of neither of us wanting to look at Skeet, probably. I know I don’t. And what does he mean by another in need? Is Levi in need of something?

"What exactly do you want from me, Skeet?” Levi asks as his gaze remains on me.

"Nothin’ you don’t have.”

"That’s vague, Dude.”

"That’s life, young’un.”

Warring emotions hang thick in the room. The walls, which showcase pictures of Skeet with other famous and not-so-famous singers, seem to mock the resistance of Levi and me as we fight Skeet’s plan to work together.

Not only is Skeet a master musician, he is a humanitarian. He loves people and wants the best for them. He’s helped many a struggling artist.

And he’s helped me. A lot. But now he wants to include Levi.

Levi, who doesn’t want to be included.

I look down to see if my T-shirt is pounding along with my pulsating heart. This is crazy. Luckily there are no outward symptoms of my inner struggle. "It’s not like I’m looking for a resume or anything, but who are you, Levi? What’s your expertise?”

Levi looks a little confused. "Skeet hasn’t told you?”

I try to breathe normally. What hasn’t Skeet told me?


"I’m a musician. I write, sing, and produce music.”

"Christian music, Summer.” Skeet’s gaze fixes on me.

Christian music? Levi has such a renegade look. Maybe all Christian music isn’t sung by people wearing choir robes. And Levi obviously thinks it couldn’t be sung by me. "Oh, I see.”

"I don’t think you do.” Skeet points to Levi. "This is one extremely talented man. He doesn’t know how talented he is.”

"I have nothing to offer the lady.” Levi’s expression remains solid.

"You have everything to offer,” Skeet counters.

This is crazy. Outrageous. I’ve had the most famous people in the world fighting to work with me. I don’t need this.

I don’t need him.

"Thanks, but no thanks.” I walk toward the door.

"Summer, hold on.” Skeet’s voice slows my steps.

"Hold on for what, Skeet?” I ask. "Your friend here to tell me one more time I’m not good enough? Just stay here in your safe studio and sing Jesus music. I have a real CD to make.”

I hurry out of the room, out of the house and to my car. My hand shakes as I push the remote to unlock the door.

"Summer, let me explain.”

Levi’s voice reaches me as I’m about to get into my car. All I have to do is open the door and leave. So why do my feet seem rooted to the driveway?

"I’m sorry about Skeet’s scheming. The man never gives up. So let’s try it, okay?”

I hear the words he’s speaking, but his tone reveals his still unwilling heart. "Is this a pity consolation?”


"What made you change your mind? I’m still Summer, and you’re still a Christian.”

He shifts his weight from one foot to another. "My hesitation has nothing to do with either one of those things.”

Everything about him indicates he’s sincere. But I can tell he’s not into working with me. For whatever reason this whole running out to the car thing is probably nothing more than an attempt to appease Skeet. "Look, I’m sure you’re a great artist. I saw just a little of it today, and you totally impressed me. But I don’t think it would work.”

"I’m not trying to impress anyone, and how do you know if you don’t try?”

Even in the dark my Mustang looks like a tamed pony when Levi stands next to her. All the power and red paint can’t begin to compare with him. I can’t understand it. I just know it’s true. And something tells me I need to stay away. "I really need to be going.”

He opens my car door. "Will you come back tomorrow?”

Levi’s question shatters the darkness of the night.

But it doesn’t shatter my resolve.



Chapter Two

I am not prepared to see Levi first thing in the morning.

But he is standing on my front porch, his hands shoved in the pockets of his boy-do-they-fit-good jeans, trying to make a case for Skeet.

"I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Can I make myself any clearer?

"Skeet thinks you’re being difficult.”

"I’m not. I promise.”

I must admit Levi looks uncomfortable. Like he doesn’t want to be here. His scowl and dark mood contrast with the bright morning while his gruff voice overrides the soft chirping of the birds.

"Okay. I’m going to get right to the point. You don’t look real busy or anything, and if I go back to Skeet’s without you, he’s not going to be happy.”

"He’s just going to have to be unhappy then for a while. Look, I really didn’t want to get into it, but my manager’s coming. He should be here anytime now.”

I say the words ‘my manager’s coming’ like it’s no big deal.

It’s a big deal.

Especially if Levi is still standing here. There is no way, no how I want Coleman meeting Levi. It can’t happen.

My vision of disaster comes to life as I hear Coleman’s car barreling up the long, winding driveway. And really, barreling is the only way to describe how Coleman drives. To be totally honest, which is new to me in a big way, it’s how Coleman lives. Barreling through life. Through people. Through money.

Through me.

Will he barrel through take-charge Levi?

My palms start to sweat as Coleman exits his rental and walks to the trunk he’s popped open.

Levi looks at me. "That’s one very beige dude. His suit matches the car, which matches his hair.”

I try to hide my smile, then Coleman slams the trunk shut, and I flinch.

"Does the man make you nervous?” Levi asks.

What’s making me nervous is Coleman meeting Levi. You see, my therapist didn’t cover what to do when two worlds collide.

Coleman walks briskly up to the porch. I’m still standing in the doorway, Levi is still standing on the porch. Coleman stops at the top of the steps.

"Hi, Princess. Who’s your friend?”

"Levi Preston.” Levi offers his hand to Coleman.

Coleman takes Levi up on his handshake offer. "Coleman Ross. What business are you in?”

"None of yours. And you?”

"What do you want with Summer?” Coleman’s tone changes as he practically yanks his hand away from Levi’s.

I shake my head. "Coleman. Use some manners, please. He’s a friend of Skeet’s.”

"Who the hell is Skeet?”

I close my eyes to give myself a moment. How have I put up with him all these years? Is he always this rude? This beige? I smile at the thought of Levi’s description.

"Skeet Lawson?” I say, knowing full well that Coleman will recognize the name. There is no bigger name in country music.

"Yeah, so how does this guy who knows Skeet Lawson know you, and what does this have to do with me? I don’t have a whole lot of time to waste here, Princess. I left T-LUV and The Brandywineries in mid-recording to come and talk to you. Every minute counts.”

I could care less about his new groups who have burst on the music scene. They are making him a ton of money, just like I do. Or did. No. Still do.

"Hey, now. Treat the lady with a little respect, here. Tone down the tone. Relax.” Levi squares his shoulders.

"The name Skeet Lawson I know, but Levi Preston I don’t. So why don’t you move on for now. Summer and I have an appointment. I don’t recall you being invited.”

"I invited him,” I blurt out.

The two men look at me like I’m crazy. And I think I am. What am I doing?

"Princess, the discussion we need to have is private.”

Coleman not only looks irritated, he sounds irritated. Great. Now I’m standing with two irritated men.

"Coleman, Levi is a musician. He’s helping me work on something.” I speak the words even though I know they aren’t entirely true. But I can honestly say a decision hasn’t been made on my part. I’ve been pondering.

"He’s helping you on your new CD?”

The look Levi is giving me isn’t a good one. The words to describe it are confused, confused and confused. In a bad way. I’m not including disappointed in there because in as much as I don’t know Levi Preston, he has to know I’m up to something. I don’t want to out and out lie to Coleman. Not only is the look Levi is giving me screaming that loud and clear, there’s something inside of me rebelling at the very thought.

Which is scary. Before I started rehab I don’t think I knew the truth from lies and vice versa.

"I haven’t started the new CD.”

"So how is he helping you? And this better be good, because I’m sure there are some contract violations going on here. Not just anybody can work with you, you know.”

Now that I’m sober I find dealing with Coleman exhausting. "I wasn’t aware my life is a contract.”

Levi’s expression is indescribable. And not in a good way.

"I hope you’re not helping him. People pay for your opinion.” Coleman’s face is red, like it might explode any minute now.

Levi holds up his hands as if in surrender. "I’m a professional musician with recording contracts, agents, publicists. But I’m in a totally different league. You guys are too much for me. Catch you later, Summer.”

Without as much as a goodbye to Coleman, Levi makes his way down the steps. I don’t really know what is happening as I follow him to his car. I just know he can’t leave here like this.

"Wait,” I say as his hand grabs the door handle.

"He’s messed up, you know.”

His truthful gaze sears into me while his words permeate my brain.

"Yes, I’m aware of how messed up he is, but I don’t have a choice in the matter. He’s been my manager since I was eight years old. I don’t even know how long our current contract is. I need to call my lawyer and get him to send me all my contracts. Not that I would know how to read them.”

"If I were you, I’d start redirecting your managerthis minute. Let him know you’re the boss. He works for you. You don’t work for him.”

My fingers rub my temple like they can calm the storm in my mind. "I never thought of it like that. I mean, where would I be if it wasn’t for him?”

"Trust me on this. He wouldn’t be where he is if it wasn’t for you.”

I shake my head in hopes his words will settle my thoughts. "Thank you.”

"For what?”

"For trying to help me.” I hug my arms to my chest. "You don’t even know me.”

"No. I don’t. But I do know when someone is being taken advantage of. I don’t like it. And,” he nods his head towards me, "I don’t like being used.”

I swallow the hard lump in my throat. "Used?”

"Yes, used. You used Skeet’s offer to get your manager all riled up. I’m not sure why. Maybe you feel like you need to have something over him. I don’t know. But the offer has been rescinded. I’ll handle Skeet. Have a good life, Ms. Sinclair.”

Flashes of something good being swept away roll through my mind along with the urge to retrieve it. "Levi, wait. You don’t understand.”

He’s got one leg in the car, his hands holding onto the top of the door.

"What’s there to understand?” he challenges.

I can’t speak. My hesitation costs me my chance to explain. Levi slides the rest of the way into the car and shuts the door. I hear the doors lock. The sound is so final.

I’m in way over my head, and I know it.

Why was Levi in my life for such a short time?

I turn back toward the cabin. Coleman is staring at me like I’ve lost it.

And why has Coleman been in my life for so long?

Coleman has unfolded and flattened out the contract I have with Feline Records, and it lays open on the kitchen table. He’s pointing here and there to print that is so fine it brings new meaning to the term fine print. His apparent goal is to show me how I can’t get out of the contract. How I have to make one more CD for this record company.

But I’m not listening to all he has to say. My mind keeps wandering. To Skeet, Levi.

"Princess? Earth to Princess.”

I look at Coleman. "Yes?”

"What did I just say?”

"I don’t know. You talk in all that legal jargon even though you know I can’t understand it.”

"I asked you for a glass.”

"Oh.” Now it’s obvious to Coleman I haven’t been paying attention.

"What is it, Princess? Why can’t you grasp the importance of making this last CD? These papers are signed by you and Feline Records. They are binding in a court of law. Even though you are quickly becoming very familiar with being in court, I suggest you don’t end up there for breach of contract. You are already in an unstable position, so why push it? Why try to make these people mad? I’ve brought some music tracks from the band. Breathe heavy into the microphone, put a few words together like baby, body, wanting, needing, loving, and you have a song. Twist them around, place the emphasis on a different word, and you have a different song. Shouldn’t take you too long.”

You know, I can’t really be mad at the man because he speaks the truth. What frustrates me is that no matter what I say, he won’t listen. I can’t make him see I feel differently inside. That, too, is frustrating in itself. Why me? Why do I all of a sudden have issues with moving around onstage in provocative ways? Moving around stages in provocative ways has been very good to me. The thought also upsets something inside.

What is happening?

"The thing is,” Coleman says, "You don’t have a choice in this matter. I’m telling you straight up. You have to produce a CD.” He points to the CD lying on the table. "There you go. Ready-made music. When you come back to California next month, we’re gonna rock. Then you’re through with Feline. Through with your career also if you dump them, but that’s a scenario for another day. Another day when I have a pile of antacids to take. For all the money you bring in, Princess, I’m beginning to wonder if you’re worth it.”

His words would sting my heart if I hadn’t already heard them over a hundred times. He’s always telling me how much trouble I am, yet he won’t leave. No way. He likes to act like he has some integrity, like he would actually turn away from the pile of money I bring to him. But I know him. It’s not happening.

All I want is a quiet life. Nothing more. Is it too late? "If I give them their CD, I’m not touring.”

"You need to rethink your thought process. You’ve been invited to triple headline with Tony Longstreet and Randy Timms. Two of the hottest guys in the industry right now.”

I shake my head. "I’m sure I wasn’t invited. You probably pushed me on them.”

"They’re planning their tour now. They need to know soon. Scheduled for next summer, and it promises to bring in the numbers. And don’t forget about Meghan Cascade. She’s ringing my phone two or three times a day.”

I’m not even in California, yet I’m right back in the midst of all this stuff. I do have to admit things are a little different. At least Coleman is asking. Before he was just booking and telling.

I push myself away from the kitchen table and pour myself another cup of coffee. My therapist says I’m strong, but right now I’m tired of fighting this man. Tired of feeling different. Tired of knowing what I don’t want but still unclear as to what I do want concerning my career.

Better to throw myself into something than not do anything. "Look, I’ll do one more CD for Feline. I guess I don’t have a choice. And it’s going to be my CD. Emphasis on my, get it?”

"They’re always your CDs, Princess.”

I set the coffee cup down then pick up the CD. "No, they’re not.” I step to the trash can where I toss the CD into the white-bagged abyss.

"Hey,” Coleman says, looking agitated. "The band worked hours on those tunes. Hours. They deserve a little respect here. I won’t tell them what you did, but you better come up with something just as good. That music rocked. They used the latest instruments and technology. Dance club tunes never sounded so good. I’m telling you, you barely had to do any work. Just string a few words together and let the beat do the rest.”

I’m totally sober now, and I can’t keep up with Coleman’s ramblings. I guess I honestly just used to tune him out. Of course I was probably tuning everything out. He loses me somewhere in the middle of his renditions of what I should do, why and how. Did he used to tell me what I should be feeling, also? Does anyone else have this type of crazy influence in my life?

I wish I had a camera as Coleman slides his executive suited arm into the trash can. It only takes a couple of seconds to retrieve the CD. Then he holds onto it by the tip of the corner, like it’s contaminated or something.

It’s hard work being sober. Tough on the brain. It actually gets used instead of abused. It thinks instead of shrinks. It reasons instead of, well, can’t think of anything that makes sense and still rhymes with reason, but you get the drift, here, right? I’m actually going through a process of making decisions, rationalizing and trying to match all these head decisions with my heart.

No wonder I stayed out of it all the time.




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